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June 23, 2020 (Lepanto Institute) — In apparent anticipation of the June 15 ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States that the 1964 Civil Rights Act extends anti-discrimination protections to homosexuals and transgenders, an anonymous plaintiff going by John Doe (a man in a same-sex “marriage”), filed a lawsuit on Friday, June 12, against Catholic Relief Services for sexual discrimination and “breach of contract, detrimental reliance, and negligent misrepresentation.”

In the lawsuit, Doe accuses Catholic Relief Services of sexual discrimination for denying medical insurance coverage for his “husband,” claiming that CRS first promised prior to hiring him that such coverage would extend to him — later reneging on that promise. Doe also claims that when he tried to get CRS to honor its promise, a senior CRS official threatened to fire him for continuing to pursue those benefits.

Within the 22-page complaint are several factors which immediately call into question the Catholic identity of the organization on the whole.

In the Background Information portion of the complaint, beginning on page 3, Doe indicates that in mid-2016, a CRS recruiter contacted him “regarding a potential job opportunity with the organization.” Doe traveled to Maryland for an interview, and during a follow-up call with the recruiter, Doe asked if his “husband” would be covered by CRS’s spousal health insurance benefits, to which the recruiter responded, “All dependents are covered.”

At this point, in mid-2016, it should be noted that CRS was on the verge of hiring a man that CRS knew was in a same-sex “marriage.” But in April of 2015, a full year prior to the hiring of John Doe, the Lepanto Institute revealed the fact that CRS had a senior executive vice president who was in a same-sex “marriage.” The following month, the then CEO of CRS, Dr. Carolyn Woo, gave an interview to Aleteia regarding the situation, saying:

CRS has a senior person who is in a civil gay marriage, and the question is, “Is that a violation of Church teaching?” I just want to say we are working through this. Gay marriage, of course, is a very complex issue. The Church is very clear that marriage as a sacrament is a between a man and a woman open to procreation. There’s also the Church teaching on natural law. Those are the teachings. nnn Does it mean that the Church should not employ anyone who is in a gay marriage? Are we giving a blanket No? … If it’s not a blanket No, are there particular positions, such as positions that are ministerial in nature, positions which relate to the formation of the faith of young children at school? … While the teaching is clear, as it translates into practice there has not been defined a common approach for dealing with employment, particularly when the position is non-ministerial, when the person is not a Catholic, when the agency is not a school. So, we’re in that area when there have been various steps forward, but not a clear path.

Civil marriage is protected by the State of Maryland and 36 other states, as well as DC, so we’re also dealing with a new intersection between in this case state law and Church teaching where the practice is being defined.

Exactly one year later, the Lepanto Institute again caught CRS employing a man in an active homosexual relationship. It was right about this time that CRS was actively recruiting Mr. John Doe, who told them before being hired, that he is in a same-sex “marriage,” and for a time, received health insurance coverage for his “spouse.” According to the lawsuit filing:

During his onboarding session, CRS’s staff reiterated to Mr. Doe that all dependents would be covered under the CRS-sponsored health insurance, with no mention of exception for same-sex spouses. With this confirmation, Mr. Doe applied for his health insurance, including coverage for his husband by submitting his marriage certificate to human resources and registering himself and his husband on the CRS Employee Self-Service website.

A little over a year after Doe was hired by CRS, CRS finally ended health insurance coverage for his same-sex partner.

The basis for Doe’s lawsuit is Title VII of the US Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act (MFEPA). This past Monday, June 15, the Supreme Court ruled that Title VII civil rights protections against discrimination on the basis of sex extend to homosexuals and transgenders. As stated in the lawsuit, the MFEPA

prohibits an employer from engaging in discriminatory compensation when “an individual is affected by application of a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice, including each time … benefits or other compensation is paid, resulting wholly or partly from the discriminatory compensation decision or other practice.

The suit then claimed that “CRS engaged in an unlawful employment action when it terminated Mr. Doe’s spousal benefits based on Mr. Doe’s sexual orientation and sex.”

Considering the previous discoveries made by the Lepanto Institute that CRS had employed other individuals (no longer with the organization) in same-sex relationships, it appears that Doe’s suit may be indicative of a much broader situation. Page 10 of the lawsuit suggests that there are others employed by CRS which are also involved in same-sex relationships, stating: “In the absence of injunctive relief, CRS will continue to discriminate against Mr. Doe and other employees similarly affected.

The most intriguing aspect of the lawsuit is the charge that CRS is subject to the Title VII employment requirements under the Civil Rights Act. The majority opinion in the recent SCOTUS decision indicated that it remains uncertain whether these protections would impact religious organizations saying that “how these doctrines protecting religious liberty interact with Title VII are questions for future cases too.”

While Catholic Relief Services claims the title “Catholic” in its name, and is indicated as a “religious organization” under IRS regulations, there is a possibility that the plaintiff in this lawsuit could argue that while CRS claims to be Catholic in name, it is not Catholic in practice. Despite the fact that the use of contraception (including condoms) and sterilization are identified by the Catholic Church in Her laws and in Her doctrines as intrinsically evil acts, CRS has been caught repeatedly participating in the promotion of the same.

In addition to CRS’s program activities which are in direct conflict with Catholic moral teaching, CRS’s annual revenue from the federal government is grossly disproportionate from the funding it receives from Catholics. According to CRS’s most recent Annual Report, only about 25% of its annual revenue comes from what could be considered Catholic sources, while a whopping 75% comes from the public sector, the majority of which is US Government grants. Of its overall revenue of $989 million, CRS received $226 million from private (Catholic) sources, and over $761 million from Commodities and freight, US Government grants, and “other” public grants. Considering the fact that only 25% of its annual revenue at best comes from what could be considered “Catholic” sources, and because CRS does not actively work to spread the Catholic faith, it remains to be seen how CRS can call itself a “Catholic” organization.

The lawsuit filed by John Doe is asking the court to award Doe what could amount to sizeable financial compensations for “unpaid wages,” “punitive damages,” “attorney’s fees,” and “compensatory damages for economic and emotional harms.”

However, the most damaging requests being asked of the court could be orders to require “CRS to reinstate Mr. Doe’s spousal benefits,” “CRS to modify its benefits policies to provide benefits for employees’ same-sex spouses,” and “CRS to implement anti-discrimination measures.” If these requirements are so ordered by the courts, then any Catholic contributing to CRS would, as a direct result of this decision, be contributing to “spousal support” for same-sex couples.

EDITOR’S NOTE (Lepanto Institute): The fact of the matter is that CRS did this to itself. By indiscriminately hiring active homosexuals and others hostile to Catholic moral teaching, it was only a matter of time before a lawsuit like this would happen. And now, because CRS chose to align itself more with the world than with the Church, the agency is being forced to reap what it has sown. As eloquently stated in the Book of Sirach, ‘Who pities a snake charmer when he is bitten, or anyone who goes near a wild beast? So it is with the companion of the proud, who is involved in their sins.’

Published with permission from the Lepanto Institute.